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Epistemological challenges: De-categorization and poly-ocular vision

Global Strategies Project



1. Limitations of interdisciplinarity

Maruyama uses his approach (Note 12.3) to clarify the essential weaknesses of the interdisciplinary, holistic programmes associated with generalists and their education:

"The concept 'interdisciplinarity' presupposes that there are first disciplines which have to be put together later... Such 'interdisciplinary' programs, 'holistic' views and production of 'generalists' are all patchwork which perpetuates and aggravates the inadequacies of the classificational thinking. What we need, instead, is non-disciplinary programs, de-categorization of science and trans-specialization. Trans-specialization consists in maintaining a contextual view while focusing on specifics and details."

2. Potential bias

But in analyzing such inadequacies of classificational thinking, Maruyama seemingly fails to recognize that they necessarily arise from over-reactions to inadequacies in non-classificational thinking (to which he does not accord any attention). Any pre-logical tabulation of this kind must however necessarily reveal the sympathies/antipathies of the formulator for particular types therein. Is it then useful to ask, for example, how "valid" is Maruyama's seeming over-reaction to the (excessive) dominance in world society which is engendered by the dominant (homogenistic) mode ?

3. Transpecialization

To clarify the need for "trans-specialization", Maruyama distinguishes between:

4. Dilemma of methodology

Of this last process Maruyama says: "Perhaps there cannot be such a methodology: a methodology, once established, would limit the type of paradigms that it can generate." This is the essential dilemma in bridging discontinuity. His approach to this "methodology" is given in a subsequent paper on ways of increasing heterogeneity and symbiotization as a basis for epistemological restructuring. In contrast to causal (homogenistic) or random (heterogenistic) paradigms he notes that no adequate mathematical formulation has been provided for mutual causal heterogeneity. In a later paper he concludes that although "mindscapes are learned rather than innate", they are mostly formed in childhood and it seems extremely difficult to change them later in life.

Perhaps the widespread disaffection with existing models is evidence to the contrary, especially where it results in "alternatives" being adopted. And, as argued here, may be it is not so much a question of "changing" existing modes as of being able to "alternate" into and out of them whenever appropriate. The problem is how to "formulate" the nature of alternation in order to make this trans-paradigmatic process credible in practice.

5. Polyocular vision

In arguing for a heterogeneity of epistemologies, Maruyama offers a beautiful metaphor in response to the (homogenistic) question "but which one is correct?" He suggests that in binocular vision itis irrelevant to raise the question as to which eye is correct and which wrong. "Binocular vision works, not because two eyes see different sides of the same object, but because the differential between the two images enables the brain to compute the invisible dimension". The brain computes a third dimension which cannot be directly perceived. And if we live in a multidimensional space even more epistemological "eyes" are required. Reducing such vision to the parts in common provides much less than monocular vision.

The difficulty with Maruyama's presentation however, is that he often appears to associate such "poly-ocular" vision with the heterogeneity characteristic of Japanese culture, although this may not be his intention. This would then preclude the use of a homogenistic epistemological "eye" in any such poly-ocular configuration. Each "eye" has its inherent limitations and strengths, and the homogenistic "eye" presumably has its own vital contribution to make to the process of encompassing (or responding to) the complexity of our collective condition. In terms of his metaphor, this section is about the design of such poly-ocular configurations and how they may be comprehended through any given "eye". His work, with Harvey's, demonstrates that a minimum of four such "eyes" are required to describe the variety of perceptions of our collective reality.

From Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential

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